“Does a fee-free guarantee mean I don’t have to pay anything if the lawyer doesn’t win?”
No, you are still responsible for other costs. Costs and fees are two different things. Please read this so that you will have the information before you start interviewing attorneys about your auto injury or other personal injury case in Michigan.
If you are hurt in an accident, or through what you think is the fault of someone else, you may be thinking about filing a legal claim or a lawsuit against them for money damages to pay you back for medical expenses, work time lost, property damage, or for the damage to your body and mind that happen when you get hurt.
You have seen or heard many ads on TV, the Internet and on radio (billboards, too!) about lawyers who handle personal injury cases. Because these ads look and sound basically all the same, some of the lawyers try to sound different by suggesting that they have a special deal for you where you don’t have to pay anything to have a case. While the wording is clever, doesn’t it sound like if you get money, the lawyer doesn’t take any of that, but gets paid separately, so it is “free” to hire the lawyer?
Of course, this is not the way it really works. The only thing that is “guaranteed” is that if you don’t get money, neither does the lawyer! Listen carefully to these ads, and watch the fine print flying by at the bottom of the picture (if you can even see it). When you hire a lawyer—any lawyer—to handle a personal injury case, such as an automobile negligence case, you are responsible to pay all the expenses that the lawyer puts out to look into your case, and to prepare it, win or lose! And there is more.
If you don’t win your case (and many trials are won by the defense, not by the victim), you may also be responsible to pay many of the costs your opponent spent to fight you!
This is something to take very seriously. When you think about starting a case, you need to know that you are responsible to pay your own lawyer’s expenses win or lose, and you could be on the hook for thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in opponent’s costs and penalties if you don’t win. Your lawyer doesn’t pay the penalties—you do.
Case costs are different from attorney fees. The costs are things the lawyers spend money on to evaluate and prepare your case—things like ordering your medical records, hiring experts to evaluate accident evidence, meeting with your doctors to find out what they have to say, paying court reporters to come to depositions, and paying court filing fees. These expenses are paid up front by your lawyer, who keeps track of them as your case goes along. The defense is doing the same thing, keeping track of how much it is spending to fight you. In addition, the defense is paying its lawyer by the hour, so the more work that is done on your case, the more the costs are mounting both on your tab and at the opposing lawyer’s office.
The attorney fee, on the other hand, is simply the percentage you and your lawyer agree upon that the lawyer will charge out of any settlement or verdict you get, after the case costs your lawyer has spent are first paid back to the lawyer.